In terms of equality, it makes sense for men and women to have equal maternity and paternity leave. If women and men shared child rearing, women would be less disadvantaged in the workplace and men would feel they were more involved in family life. However, from a psychological point of view, sharing parental leave in the child’s first year of life may not be a particularly good idea. Babies form a strong emotional attachment to a single caregiver, usually the mother, in their first year of life. This attachment to a primary caregiver occurs between 6 and 9 months old. Children who are securely attached to their primary caregiver want to be close to them especially when they are upset or scared. They dislike being separated from them and show pleasure at being reunited with them. Securely attached children use their primary caregiver as a safe and secure base from which to explore their world. Disrupting this important emotional attachment to a primary caregiver in the first year of a baby’s life is believed to make the child insecure. So why is a strong, secure attachment so important? Research shows that secure children are more likely to form good relationships with others as a child and as an adult. Securely attached children are also less likely to become aggressive and have high self-esteem. There are numerous studies to show the importance of attachment. For example, Hazan and Shaver (1987) found that people who had insecure attachments as children were more likely to be either clingy or distant in their relationships as adults compared to people who had secure infant attachments. Insecure children are also more likely victims of bullying or bullies (Myron-Wilson and Smith,1998). Sroufe et al. (1999) followed children from 12 months old to adolescence and found that children assessed as securely attached at 12 months old, were more popular, more empathic and had greater self-confidence and leadership skills in adolescence. This research shows that it is of paramount importance to allow children to develop a secure attachment to their primary caregiver in the first year. So does this mean that shared parental leave is detrimental for children? Schaffer and Emerson (1964) found that babies were soon able to form attachments to others once their first attachment had formed. Perhaps a solution to the problem is allowing fathers to take their paternity leave later on in the child’s first year or even into the child’s second year of life. However, I accept that this solution does not give true equality between men and women and I have always been pro-equality. On the other hand, if I had to weigh up my child’s sense of security against complete equality, I would probably choose my child’s security. Something I would never have thought before I had my son. What do you think?
- Parental leave system ‘old-fashioned and too rigid’ (itv.com)
- Shared Parental Leave – how will it impact you? (parentalchoiceuk.com)
- The gift of paid paternity leave (cnn.com)
- Paid Parental Leave scheme has helped over 280,000 families (stoptony2013.com)